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Over the course of its almost 200 year history, the state of Missouri has held a presidential primary election, or just a caucus in its process of sending delegates to the Presidential Nominating Convention. This year, it’s holding both. The February 7 primary is mandatory according to state statute, and yet the Republican Caucus on March 17 is what will really count this year. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore spoke with Greene County Clerk Richard Struckhoff about how the state ended up in this confusing predicament.
“First of all, I think there’s going to be some confusion because for the last two cycles, we’ve held a February Presidential Preference Primary. And that’s how the parties selected their delegates from Missouri to go to their state convention, and to the National Convention.
“The Missouri Republicans are going to hold a caucus, and that’s how they will determine how their delegates will be selected, and for whom. The caucus system has been around in Missouri for a very, very long time. In fact, we’ve only had, I believe, four Presidential Preference Primaries. Two were held in March. Because they were held so late in the year, the legislature thought, well, it’s always over by March. So they decided to move it to February, as did many other states. And that’s when the national party started laying down the law, saying ‘No, we don’t want all of these primaries in February, because the candidates can’t possibly campaign in all of these states at the same time.’
“And they wanted the states to choose later dates. And so they said to them, ‘If you don’t choose a later date, then we’re not going to seat all of your delegates.’ And that’s exactly what happened this year,” Struckhoff said.
Seeing that, Missouri Republicans decided, rather than lose half of their delegates to the National Convention, they would hold a caucus March 17. But state law still requires Missouri to hold a primary in February, thus the confusion.
“So, all across the state of Missouri, on March 17, Republicans will be holding a caucus. The doors will be opened at 8 o’clock. Here in Greene County, I believe it is going to be at the University Plaza Hotel, in their meeting room. And then the actual caucus will start at 10 o’clock that morning,” Struckhoff said.
The caucus system works differently in Missouri, Struckhoff said, because voters do not register by party in Missouri. That means the parties must basically go by the honor system, trusting that the people attending the caucus are indeed members of the party they say they are.
“The parties have, in the past, just checked to see if you are registered. And that will happen,” he said. Sometimes, the party will have attendees sign a party loyalty oath.
Once the caucus gets started, someone will get up and speak in favor of each of the major candidates, he said—and then a vote will take place.
Each county will select delegates, who will then go onto their Congressional district meetings. The delegates chosen at that meeting will onto the state convention, where the delegates for the National Convention will be chosen.
For more information, you can visit Struckhoff’s website: www.greenecountymo.gov/election.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.